The Vixens have kicked off season 2022 in style, defeating the Queensland Firebirds by five goals (65-70) in a high-scoring hit out in Brisbane on Sunday afternoon.
Star recruit Kiera Austin debuted as Vixen number 58, returning for her first SSN match since rupturing her ACL in May last year.
Austin was a steady presence in the Vixens’ attack end in the first half, partnering with player of the match Mwai Kumwenda (43 from 48) to keep the Firebirds defence guessing.
Neither side could break ahead in the first quarter, until a pair of super shots from Gretel Bueta gave the Queenslanders a three-goal lead heading into the first break.
A tight second term saw the introduction of Olivia Lewis in goalkeeper – an attempt to stem the flow of goals coming from impressive Firebirds debutant Donnell Wallam (43 from 48). Lewis becomes Vixen number 59 after crossing from the West Coast Fever in the off-season.
Super shot sensation Rahni Samason came on close to half-time and made a significant impact in the third quarter, delivering 15 from 15 attempts in the second half with her signature turn-and-shoot approach.
The changes helped the Vixens wrestle back a bit of momentum, a timely super shot from Kumwenda handing her side a two-goal lead at the main break.
Lewis and Samason continued to provide a much-needed spark in the third quarter, which the Vixens won 14-25 to extend their lead to 13.
Lewis’ experience training against Fever star Jhaniele Fowler seemed to hold her in good stead, her quick footwork and anticipation forcing a change with Wallam heading to the bench and Mia Stower joining Bueta in goals.
The final term began with a seven-to-one streak from the Firebirds, bringing the margin back to six before the Vixens steadied and held on to win by five.
Midcourt stalwarts Kate Moloney and Liz Watson were reliable throughout, providing the composure and drive needed to get the ball to their firing shooters in Samason and Kumwenda.
Jo Weston and Kate Eddy were tireless in defence, curbing the impact of a potent Firebirds front end and working hard to bring the ball downcourt in attack.
Head coach Simone McKinnis was pleased with her side’s performance after a long pre-season, noting the important role played by both debutants.
“Liv’s got some great elevation… she’s been super right from the word go since she joined us, I’m excited for her that she’s been out on court.”
“It was a real positive for us having Kippa starting the game, and Rahni coming on really well. We’ve got some really nice flexibility in that shooting circle that we’ll keep building on.”
A clash with the reigning premiers awaits the Vixens in Round 2. They take on the NSW Swifts on Saturday 2 April at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney.
The Vixens’ first home game will take place in Round 3 against the GIANTS at John Cain Arena on Saturday 9 April – tickets are available now via Ticketek.